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No definite messaging style

By Jean-Claude Elias - Sep 13,2018 - Last updated at Sep 13,2018

Between e-mailing and the various forms of quick texting such as WhatsApp and the like, the international community still has not set itself a definite style for writing these fast messages. It is actually impossible to do so, given the number and the variety of parameters involved: the subject, its length, the kind of relationship between the corresponding parties, etc. Besides, why should there be any such definite style? Can we not just let people write the way they like, as long as everyone is happy?

Apparently it is not as simple as that. Indeed, “informal digital writing” takes place not only between two school buddies of the same age and living style, but also between people where there should still be some form of respect and correctness, where hierarchy has to be observed, however informal the style, and all of it while carrying the proper message.

For example: WhatsApp has become so common, so universally used that physicians accept to answer their patients’ questions using this channel. It is convenient for both parties. Patients receive the answer they need and doctors reply when they have the time, at their leisure. The possibility to easily integrate photos and videos into WhatsApp is a great added value, sometimes helps to make a real diagnosis, and… forces you to alter the writing style too. Do you take all this into consideration when WhatsApping your treating physician?

Many are doing away with “dear” when starting a quick text. The older generation seems to be stuck with the formal “letter writing” and tends to replicate it, or at least parts of it, when texting or e-mailing, whereas the youngest generation simply has never heard of such a thing.

For some, the subject part of an e-mail is supposed to replace all forms of salutations or greetings. We are in 2018 and only speed of communication matters. Interestingly some IT pundits consider that by forgetting “dear” you increase your chances to see your message go through spam filters. Indeed, spammers often use “dear” anonymously to send their deceiving mass mailing.

What to keep, what to discard, it is all subject to debate. Some say that even an innocuous period punctuation sign may be offensive if placed at the end of a text message. Common sense, however, would let you show tolerance to imperfections in texting style, especially when getting in contact with a correspondent for the first time. There will be enough to fine-tune the style after a couple of messages.

For some observers e-mail already is getting old and we should not worry too much about the best style to use in it. For them quick texting of all kinds is going to prevail somehow, at least in the majority of cases. For others e-mail still has long years to live and to serve if only because it is legally acknowledged as formal business correspondence and can serve as proof of.

The tax department, banks and countless services communicate with you mainly through quick texting these days. I can tell, from all the text messages received over the last year, whether on the direct text application of my smartphone or via WhatsApp, that all these parties are streamlining their act and that the style is nicely evolving, while observing the deference due. 

Figures published by DMR last May indicate that an average 65 billion WhatsApp messages are sent every day and about 230 billion emails. Figures include consumer and business messages.

At the risk of revealing my age group, and conjuring up the past a bit, I will end this article written to The Jordan Times’ readers with a heartfelt, Yours sincerely.

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